‘1883: The Bass Reeves Story’: Everything to Know About the ‘1883’ Spinoff’s Star David Oyelowo

by Suzanne Halliburton

David Oyelowo, who soon will star in the spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is a real-life member of Nigerian royalty who will play an American icon.

Oyelowo, like Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, has been working for several years to bring the story of Bass Reeves to a TV or movie screen near you. Reeves’ name might not be that familiar, but you know all about the iconic character he inspired. Legend has it that the Lone Ranger was based on Reeves’ life.

So who is David Oyelowo, who will be starring as Bass Reeves in the 1883 spinoff? He’ll be part of the vast Yellowstone universe. He’s a British-born actor whose family hails from Nigerian royalty. And Oyelowo is among an elite circle of actors in Hollywood who can claim multiple prestigious awards.

When Oyelowo is asked about his royal heritage, he makes it clear that the lineage didn’t bring with it much money or prestige. He said his father would tell him family stories, which he never really believed. Then Oyelowo and his parents moved back to Nigeria. And they lived on a street named for the family. That made the family ties for real. In an interview with NPR, he said the royal lineage gave him a “sense of self that has enabled me, as I’ve gone into my life in the West, to carry myself in a way that flies in the face of the world in which I live.”

Oyelowo already has brought an American icon to life. He starred in the 2014 movie Selma, portraying Martin Luther King. And he also played a civil rights activist in the 2013 movie, The Butler. Plus, he was a star in Red Tails, portraying a Tuskeegee Airman.

Oyelowo won an NAACP Image Award for his work in Selma. He also received nominations for best actor from the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Movie Award. Oleyowo also won big for Nightingale. He and his wife, Jessica, own Yoruba Saxon Productions. The company co-produced Nightingale for HBO. He won a Critic’s Choice acting award for the role and received nominations for an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

David Oyelowo and his wife, Jessica, own the production company that’s behind the spinoff 1883: The Bass Reeves Story (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Last fall, Sheridan announced that he was working with Oyelowo to bring Bass Reeves to life. On Tuesday, Paramount+ confirmed that Bass Reeves would be a spinoff of 1883. Paramount+ provided no further details. It was a sentence in a press release announcing that Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren would star in 1932, another Yellowstone prequel and a continuation of the 1883 story.

Bass Reeves is a fascinating character from the 1800s. He was born in 1838 as a slave in Arkansas. His owner forced him to accompany the son to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War. But Bass escaped to Indian Territory, which later became Oklahoma.

Five Native American tribes — Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw — ran the area. Reeves, living amongst the tribes, learned the language of the Seminole and Creek. He moved back to Arkansas when the 13th Amendment eliminated slavery.

Reeves became the first Black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. He apprehended more than 3,000 criminals throughout the course of his career. And legend has it that he never suffered a wound while arresting bad guys.

Oyelowo and Yoruba Saxon had been trying to make a Reeves series for the last seven years. Now, it falls under the super successful Yellowstone universe. It’ll be fascinating to see how Sheridan weaves in David Oyelowo as Bass Reeves and his spinoff connection to 1883. From the history books, we know that Reeves was eight years into his career as a marshal by 1883. The 1883 series started in Fort Worth, so there can be some geographical overlap.